STUART REES Julian Assange, A Court of Star Chamber, Cruelty Beyond Belief

In the 15th century, King Henry VII of England established a Court of Star Chamber. Operated by Privy Counsellors and judges, it developed a reputation for arbitrary power leading to cruel and unusual punishments. There was no due process and no rights of appeal for the accused.

Publisher, whistleblower, journalist Julian Assange has been the victim of a 21st century Court of Star Chamber operated by media intent on smears, by politicians not wanting to offend Washington and by opponents who decided on hearsay that they knew the consequences of the WikiLeaks cables, what he did in Sweden, how he behaved in the Ecuadorian Embassy.

A week ago Kristinn Hrafnson, editor in chief of WikiLeaks flew from Iceland to address the National Press Club in Canberra about the extradition proceedings against Julian Assange. In common with Nils Melzer the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and 60 doctors who have expressed serious concern about Julian’s health, Hrafnson said he worried that Julian would die in prison,

Assange’s offence, for which he faces 17 charges under a US 1917 Espionage Act is to have exposed US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He is in solitary confinement, jailed in a prison which specialises in the containment of murderers and individuals convicted of terrorism offences. Denied the means of preparing for the legal case against him, part of the revenge-type punishment (nothing to do with law) has been to cut him off from the outside world.

The fight for Julian Assange’s freedom depends in part on repudiating the stereotype labels placed on him, as in the view that he is strange, even dangerous and with personal habits different from those of supposed normal people.

Scott Morrison is a leading stereotype promoter. He mouths the platitude that justice must take its course and that Assange must face the music. That ‘justice’ has included the ‘we-always-know-best’ arrogance of the British government and judges who want to make an example of Assange and deter anyone who might challenge the abusive power of a sovereign state.

Another platitude which politicians use to explain why they are not demanding the release and return of citizen Assange is that in Australia we abide by the tradition of not interfering in the affairs of another country. That is a lazy, robot-like excuse. It is also a massive hypocrisy.

Australia had little hesitation in joining a Coalition to invade Iraq. We applaud the US support for protesters in Hong Kong. We stood by the Bahrain footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi, criticized the Thai military government for imprisoning and shackling him and identified the vicious brutality of the regime in Bahrein. The Australian government has protested the incarceration of Uighur people in so called re-education camps in north west China and the slaughter of protesters in Iraq and Iran.

But when it comes to Australia’s patrons the US and UK, Julian Assange is left to ‘face the music’ and rot in Belmarsh prison.

Julian’s father John Shipton, with the support of Greg Barns and Aloysia Brooks, has been encouraging journalists and politicians to speak on behalf of his son. Significant journalists, Phillip Adams, Mary Kostakidis, Mark Davis and Kerry O’Brien have supported Julian. Federal politicians Andrew Wilkie, George Christensen, Richard Di Natale, Barnaby Joyce and others, plus former Foreign Minister Bob Carr have taken a lead in saying this injustice must end. At their own expense, Wilkie and Christensen propose to visit Julian in Belmarsh.

But why isn’t there an avalanche of politicians declaring that the cruelty to Assange must end ? What else do privileged, comfortable, well paid politicians need to need to know as they journey home to celebrate the spirit of Christmas?

A cue as to why the political support for Assange should be magnified overnight was given on December 7 in Labor leader Antony Albanese’s address to the Chifley Research Centre Conference.

Albanese said, ‘We’re the party of social justice.’ He criticized the Coalition government because ‘It won’t support the freedom to protest.’ He insisted, ‘Labor stands with Australia’s journalists and the Right to Know Coalition in their united campaign to defend and strengthen press freedom.’

He would protect whistleblowers, expand their protections and the public interest test. He demanded, ‘Don’t prosecute journalists for just doing their job.’

In addition to telling the Chifley Conference, ‘We don’t need a culture of secrecy, we need a culture of disclosure’, he could have added, ‘We need to show courage by refusing to comply with the demands of powerful bullies. We need to know that justice is not some empty slogan.’

Albanese’s dismay at misinformation generated by technology companies should include criticism of Court of Star Chamber judgements. If the Labor leader wants to restore faith in democracy and in politicians, he could start by supporting the civil liberties of Julian Assange.

There’s a dismaying irony in the cowardice that accompanies indifference to cruelty. Australian politicians may fear that if they speak out, their reputations will receive the same treatment as Assange: smeared by the Murdoch media, criticized by some self-important scribes who have claimed that Assange despite his several international awards for journalism is not one of them.

Most MPs would claim to be interested in human rights. Such interest requires them to take a stand on principle and not be troubled if they happen to offend powerful operators in the UK and the US.

Henry VII’s Court of Star Chamber was eventually abolished. Collusion with the US and UK cruelty towards Julian Assange must also end. This is a political persecution which demands political solutions.

Stuart Rees OAM is Professor Emeritus, University of Sydney & recipient, Jerusalem (Al Quds ) Peace Prize

print

Stuart Rees OAM, human rights activist, poet, novelist, author of books on social justice. Recipient of the Jerusalem Peace Prize, Founder Director of the Sydney Peace Foundation.

This entry was posted in Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

For questions regarding our comment system please click here.
(Please note that we are unable to post comments on your behalf.)


12 Responses to STUART REES Julian Assange, A Court of Star Chamber, Cruelty Beyond Belief

  1. Avatar Charles Lowe says:

    Quote:

    “A cue as to why the political support for Assange should be magnified overnight was given on December 7 in Labor leader Anthony Albanese’s address to the Chifley Research Centre Conference.

    Albanese said, ‘We’re the party of social justice.’ He criticized the Coalition government because ‘It won’t support the freedom to protest.’ He insisted, ‘Labor stands with Australia’s journalists and the Right to Know Coalition in their united campaign to defend and strengthen press freedom.’

    He would protect whistleblowers, expand their protections and the public interest test. He demanded, ‘Don’t prosecute journalists for just doing their job.’

    In addition to telling the Chifley Conference, ‘We don’t need a culture of secrecy, we need a culture of disclosure’, he could have added, ‘We need to show courage by refusing to comply with the demands of powerful bullies. We need to know that justice is not some empty slogan.’

    Albanese’s dismay at misinformation generated by technology companies should include criticism of Court of Star Chamber judgements. If the Labor leader wants to restore faith in democracy and in politicians, he could start by supporting the civil liberties of Julian Assange.”

    WHY HASN’T HE?

    Another quote:

    “Most MPs would claim to be interested in human rights. Such interest requires them to take a stand on principle and not be troubled if they happen to offend powerful operators in the UK and the US.”

    Whose power is scaring Albo?

  2. Avatar Robyn says:

    One thing I don’t understand is the apparent lack of action by Julian’s legal team to have his conditions in Belmarsh improved. And if his health continues to deteriorate, as reported by his father and other visitors, wouldn’t an application to ensure treatment be a logical move? Surely there would be grounds for having Julian kept in ‘normal’ conditions but all we hear from people close to his legal team is that they indeed have their strategies planned but they can’t talk about them at this time. And shouldn’t there be an application for the entire case to be thrown out on the grounds that all meetings between Julian and his legal team were recorded and passed to the prosecutors? As you can see, I have no legal knowledge, but I do know that even serial killers in Australia are not kept in the conditions which Julian is suffering. Meanwhile, he slides towards death – he certainly will never recover psychologically from what the state has done to him – and it seems nothing is happening. I’ve asked this question under a number of articles about Julian and am still waiting for a legal brain to put my mind at ease of this score.

  3. Avatar Wayne Fyffe says:

    Little surprised if the following “mouse that roared” outburst is swept into the ether. But have to at least make this little effort to speak out, as best I can.

    I’m almost speechless with age weary rage at our shameless and gormless so-called political leaders, including Labor and the Greens, for their entrenched cowardice in failing to stand up to the Washington deep state bully establishment.

    In summary, they have for so long now essentially allowed Julian Assange to “swing in the breeze” whilst having allowed, by their consenting silence, illegal 2003 Iraq invasion war criminal perpetrators Bush, Blair, Howard and their minions to get off scot free.

    Notably, whilst we are apparently not allowed to forget the Nazi Holocaust I, for a lonely one, will never forget the BS and lies our governments and MSM presstitute stenographers fed us to justify the 2003 Iraq invasion catastrophe, the legacy of which is still with the hapless Iraqis and us.

    Don’t want to hear any more about “justice” and “law n’order” from our pathetically weak kneed so-called leaders. A “pox” on the lot of ’em.

  4. Alison Broinowski Alison Broinowski says:

    Well said Stuart. Last weekend Amanda Hooton had another smear-piece in the Good Weekend. I wrote to the editor and since it hasn’t been published, here’s my letter:
    It’s better late than never to see politicians and other prominent Australians coming out in support of Julian Assange, Even Bob Carr is now making up for his inaction as Foreign Minister. If Assange had been an Australian soccer player, an academic in Iran, or a tour operator in North Korea, no effort would have been spared to have him out by now.
    Sweden never charged him and has now dropped its politically confected rape case. What’s more, a federal court in New York in July dismissed the Democrats’ suit against him for publishing its leaked emails in 2016.
    A Spanish company spied on Assange in Belmarsh prison, and Ecuador’s new leaders published lying smears about his personal behaviour. Pentagon officials admit no-one has been killed by WikiLeaks’ revelation of their name. Assange worked hard on redaction in 2010: but the mainstream media papers wouldn’t wait before publishing the documents, and then blamed him for the lack of redaction.
    The only accusations left standing are Assange’s alleged espionage against the US and conspiracy with Chelsea Manning in 2010. The Guardian has at last reversed itself and decided Assange’s extradition is ‘a matter of press freedom and the public’s right to know’. Major US newspapers are also concerned for their own journalists’ operations.
    Prominent international lawyers and many authors around the world have recently published in support of Assange.
    Instead of telling us things that many don’t know, Amanda Hooton rakes over the story made familiar by certain journalists for close to a decade, concluding that it’s not really about justice but Assange’s reputation. Three questions for her: how has that reputation been created and propagated? if Assange dies or ‘suicides’ in custody, how will our politicians and media escape responsibility? and what would she expect Australia to do if she were a journalist in Assange’s position?

    • Avatar Rhys Stanley says:

      Three good questions, Alison. You won’t get answers from that direction, however.

      There is one reason why this matter is treated so shamefully in this country and that is the subservience we display in every possible way to the the USA.
      It is humiliating, especially when it is thrown up at you by a mixed group of South East Asians, as it was to me this week.
      Assange has been treated poorly, not only from the LNP, some Greens and Independents but Labor as well, a reflection on the poor quality of representatives we keep selecting, year after year.

      What a country we could be with a parliament full of people like Andrew Wilkie, Rex Patrick and Nick McKim. Sadly while this pathetic excuse for a Prime Minister occupies that office, this will not change. The US lobby has pumped him up to the stage that he even believes he has value.
      A complete misfit and we cannot expect such a person to show any interest in justice for Julian Assange, ever.
      He has his instructions from Washington.

  5. Avatar Rex Williams says:

    As I had published as a letter in The Canberra Times, yesterday, Stuart……

    “Julian Assange exposed the truth of US imperialism and war crimes around the world, the surveillance state and corrupt trade deals hidden from public view. Prince Andrew regularly visited Jeffrey Epstein’s paedophile island, was close friends with the serial sex trafficator and paedophile for 20 years.

    Guess which one is locked in a UK prison cell and facing extradition to the United States?”

    This comment formed part of an offering with photos that was well circulated on the internet.

    Sadly, we have a totally weak US / Israel sycophant as a Prime Minister. We now see the results of Morrison’s influences on his collection of feeble parliamentary members, few of whom have any value- certainly no courage indicated by their never questioning his daily excesses and misrepresentations..

    Along with the disgraceful persecution of Bernard Collaery, “Witness K” and “Witness J”, is Julian Assange’s treatment by Australian politicians (apart from some of the Greens and Independents) driven by the lies and innuendoes fermented in the UK’s The Guardian and as expected, the Murdoch rightwing media. These excesses render decency and justice as the loser. I have never been so ashamed of my country in my life.

    The fact that we have ended up with a PM like Morrison, a sham, a self-promoting, fast-talking egoist and a lying con man, is a condition from which must recover. We need to demand strong action from our current feeble parliamentarians to stand up to him, to deny him his well-established subservience to Israel and the USA to recover some respect internationally. Right now we are a joke, Australia is considered a pathetic lapdog, nothing more.

    Julian Assange should be seen by the world as a hero, as he is in my book, for making us aware of the crimes of the #1 terrorist in history, the USA, which through sanctions and military actions continues to kill millions every year. It still runs rampant over countries in which it acts as a pirate to steal oil, lithium and other precious metals and to maintain political control along with Netanyahu and his criminals in Israel.

    The zionist state with its 400 illegal nuclear weapons is the world’s latest out-of-control mad dog; corrupt, dangerous, universally disliked and whose daily atrocities and warmongering reiterating the 1930s is a threatening climate for world peace.

    History is repeating itself, yet again.

  6. Avatar Peter Small says:

    We should all email this to our local member

    • Avatar Robyn says:

      Peter, you can try that and I would be interested to know whether you get a response. Over the years, and more often this year, I have emailed various Federal MPs including my own representative, Morrison, and Albo – my emails didn’t get a response. Peter Whish-Wilson, after the formation of the Parliamentary group for Julian, responded personally and promptly. All the others – zero. They are beyond disgusting. I hope you have more luck – perhaps a few of them will develop a conscience before Julian dies.

  7. Avatar Andrew Glikson says:

    If I understand it correctly Assagne is only held in prison so that, if freed, he does not escape? If so, any prisoner could be held indefinitely in prison for this kind of reason?
    Is this legal? Or is Assagne a political prisoner? How politically biased or otherwise are the judges?
    Or do I misunderstand the situation?

  8. Avatar Jim KABLE says:

    Bravo, Stuart. I shall forward this to my local member Pat CONROY and suggest he pass it on to his leader – the coal-industry-supporter!

Comments are closed.